Dear Reuel: I Don’t Want To Rent My House To Indians And PRCs

Dear Reuel,

I am having difficulties finding a tenant but I do not want to rent my property to Indians and PRCs. Indians cook ‘heavy curry’. I have read horror stories of how PRCs leave properties in shitty conditions, or built partitions to rent to their compatriots.

I am not taking any chances. What’s your opinion on this?

– Worried Landlord

Dear Worried Landlord,

Stop being choosy. Did you know that our country is in quite a pickle right now? According to Department of Statistics Singapore, from 2010 to 2016, our total population grew from 5,076,700 to 5,607,300. That’s a population growth of around 88,400 people every year.

If we look at 2017 figures, we are sitting at 5,612,300 in total population. That’s 5,000 in population growth.. Only 5,000 people for crying out loud!

There just aren’t enough tenants coming in to rent homes because our Government has been holding back on issuing work visas (because they fear losing votes come election hur hur).

And if I can be totally blunt, we Singaporeans are the perfect example how Singapore is still centuries away from eliminating racial discrimination. We know it’s a serious problem when even the BBC headlined the article ‘No Indians No PRCs’: Singapore’s rental discrimination problem, some years ago.

For all that talk about Singapore being a ‘racially harmonious’ country and a melting pot of different cultures, our foreign friends have to be screened for their nationality before being ‘allowed’ to rent a house. How sad is that?

First of all, how do we define a ‘good tenant’? A good tenant is one who pays rent on time, doesn’t give trouble to the landlord, makes a concerted effort to keep the said property in a reasonable condition (amid normal wear and tear).

Next, may I clarify that property agents are NOT allowed to ‘indicate preference for any race or religion in all advertisements’ according to the Council of Estate Agencies’ Practice Guidelines on Ethical Advertising. Asking your agent to indicate the racial preference is akin to telling him to get his license suspended.

The chief concern most landlords have is that Indians will do a lot of ‘heavy cooking’ which will wreck kitchens or which stench is hard to remove. Yes, I do understand from my Indian national friends that many of them have no choice but to cook from home because they are vegetarians (by Singapore standards). This promptly eliminates much of their choices from the available food offerings in Singapore restaurants and food courts.

Now, who’s to say that renting to a Malaysian, Korean, Japanese, British, Russian, Canadian, German, American [or insert whichever nationality you are biased for] means there will confirm plus chop guarantee not be any problems with your house?

So, their need to cook is undeniable. But instead of denying them from renting your property in this challenging rental market especially when the Indian (and PRC) community forms majority of the renters, why not talk things out? Here’s what I suggest. Talk things through and inform the tenants, “I’m going to need you to return my apartment in the same state as it was before it was rented out to you.”

A good tenant is one who pays rent on time, doesn’t give trouble to the landlord, makes a concerted effort to keep the said property in a reasonable condition (amid normal wear and tear).

Next, many landlords fear renting to PRCs (People’s Republic of China) because they are [perceived to be] rowdy, makes lots of noise, do not take care of the house, or worst of all – illegally partitions out the landlord’s home to make rental income.

So, most of us probably had that first relationship which ended really bad. Are you going to swear off dating and marriage because of that? Does that mean we let that first bad experience stop us from finding the ‘right partner’? If yes, then I give up. Please keep trying to rent your property to non-PRCs.

The truth is that yes, some of their compatriots have made headlines for all the wrong reasons. But that does not mean ALL of them are rowdy troublemakers who wreck homes and partitions properties for profit!

Find a responsible property agent who will do a good screen-through of the tenant. As mentioned earlier, a PRC tenant may be a far better tenant than the British tenant whose dog chews on everything or that Mexican tenant who refused to allow any viewings when you try to sell your property.

All good articles end with a good story, so here’s one. Now suppose you paid for a ticket on a swanky Western airline to fly to your dream destination. You’re in the plane all set and ready to go when there’s an announcement over the intercom, “The plane is overbooked, and we gonna have to ask one of you to vacate your seat for the next flight instead.” Now you’re the only Asian in the plane and somehow, you’re the only one told to vacate your seat. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s exactly how we make our Indian and PRC friends feel too, isn’t it?

In the end, a good tenant isn’t defined by his nationality or place of birth but by his/her ability to pay rent on time and maintain the house in reasonable condition. And the bank installments don’t pay for itself, especially in this challenging rental market as shared in the previous Dear Reuel.

Be a smart landlord, not a choosy and broke one. RW


Editor’s note: Every week, Reuelwrites dishes out uncensored, practical advice to friends, family members or strangers regarding real estate. Got a question for Reuelwrites? Email it to

Consultation: There is no one-advice-fits-all solution. For more in-depth advice, contact Reuelwrites at or call +65 9833-6450.

Disclaimer: While the author Reuelwrites is a certified real estate agent with Huttons Asia, the above thoughts represents his own and is in no way representative to that of Huttons Asia.

Dear Reuel: Should I Compromise On My Asking Rent?

Dear Reuel, 

I have been putting my 3 bedroom condo unit for rent at an asking price of $3,000. I’m willing to negotiate to $2,800 since it was last rented out at $2,800. That’s reasonable right? I have an offer of $2,500 and the tenant can move in by end of the month.

I was told by my agent to consider the offer since the recent transaction is hovering between the $2,300 to $2,600 range due to the weakened rental market. That’s so low! Do you think I should compromise on my asking rent?

– Reasonable Landlord

Hi Reasonable Landlord,

So you have an offer of $2,500 and the tenant can move in at the end of the month.. What are you waiting for?! Take the offer already!

While the property market is beginning to pick up as supply of new launch properties diminishes, the takeup rate in the rental market is slower in response. According to a Singapore Business Review article, private residential vacancy rate stands at 30,100 at the end of Q3 2017.

The root cause is due to the fact that there just aren’t enough Foreign talents coming to S’pore to work. And it isn’t because Singapore is undesirable. Rather, the reason why we are in a pickle is because of us – our dear fellow netizens who complained about having too much Foreign talents in S’pore. Our dear PAP-run Government responded in kind by granting lesser work visas.

Simple economics of supply and demand has it that when demand is not able to meet the supply, prices slide and vice versa. I hope you weren’t one of the netizens because you would have literally sabo yourself. #ownselfsaboownself

Here’s a true story. I had a landlord who wanted to rent a 3 bedroom condo unit in East. The condo is an older condo and requires a ten minutes walk from Tanah Merah MRT. Landlord has previously enjoyed past rentals of around $3,000/month and was determined to keep it that way.

She asked me to assist to rent her property out at $3,000. I explained to her it was difficult since the recent rentals was around $2,600 but advertised at $3,000. After three months of marketing and arranging viewings, I managed to get her an offer from a local tenant family of three, at $2,800.

Guess what? She refused! She insisted that the tenant increase the offer by $50 to make it $2,850. The tenant was unwilling to do so and the deal fell through. And it took another four months before she rented her unit out to a tenant at.. drumroll please$2,500. *Shakes head*

The opportunity cost was more than seven months loss of rental income. While this is one of the more extreme (true) cases, it can happen to you if you are asking for sky-high prices for your property.

If your property agent convinced you to buy a new property promising high rental returns, chase him or her to rent it out at the promised rental yield. 

Your priority is to make sure your unit isn’t vacant, or at least not for too long. Get your unit occupied so you still get rental income coming into to help you shoulder the monthly installments. While you may feel butt-hurt that you couldn’t rent out at the price you wanted, remember – it’s better than having it vacant for months.

But good news, the rental market WILL recover. I quote TODAY Online’s 5 December 2017 article, “Raising the intake of working-age foreigners will help shore up growth and fiscal revenue, and reduce the tax burden on younger Singaporeans”.

It’s only a matter of time before the Government open the floodgates to bring in more foreigners. Soldier on fellow landlords! RW


Editor’s note: Every week, Reuelwrites dishes out uncensored, practical advice to friends, family members or strangers regarding real estate. Got a question for Reuelwrites? Email it to

Consultation: There is no one-advice-fits-all solution. For more in-depth advice, contact Reuelwrites at or call +65 9833-6450.

Disclaimer: While the author Reuelwrites is a certified real estate agent with Huttons Asia, the above thoughts represents his own and is in no way representative to that of Huttons Asia.

How Do We Deal With Death?

Question. How do we actually deal with the end of life?

18 August last year, I received a call from my mother that my grandmother, her mother might not have much time left. I canceled all my appointments and rushed down to the nursing home. They say that we not only lose weight, but we shrink as we approach the end of one’s life.

By this time, my grandmother who has been bedridden due to multiple illnesses for the past few years seemed to have indeed shrunk in size and her skin, now a pale colour. Her current state was a stark difference from the healthy and plumper grandma I remembered when I was younger.

I was never really that close to my maternal grandmother but I do know this. That my mom loved her from the bottom of her heart. She was always the most filial (in my opinion), the daughter who visited the most. Grandma has been holding out for quite a while, but this time it seemed that she was going to leave us for real. She left us that evening.

Perhaps we knew it was only a matter of time. But when it came, no amount of self-preparation could equip us for the fateful day as my mother and I wept by her deathbed.


‘From the moment we are born, we begin to die’
– Danish Writer, Janne Teller


Even as global literacy rate increases globally, and primary school mathematics become increasingly impossible to solve, it seems that we are taught a great many things – except how to approach death.

Danish writer Janne Teller aptly sums life up in just ten words; ‘From the moment we are born, we begin to die’.

Valar Morghulis, all man must die.


From Left: My Late Maternal and Late Paternal Grandmother | Taken on a rare family cruise trip

And the thing is, death is no respecter of age, status or wealth. When it comes, it comes. And sometimes, there is no time for preparation. I remembered attending the funeral of a friend a few years ago. She was 27 when she passed on.

It can be especially difficult for Christians to reconcile this. More often than not, we believe, pray and declare over our loved one’s life that “God is your Jehovah Rapha, He will heal you”. But what if God does allows the opposite? At the same time, didn’t God also declare that this life we live is but a temporal phase, because we will eventually enter into His life everlasting where there is no more pain and suffering?

Some folks may choose to rebel against traditional conventions. I vaguely remember a friend mentioning that he would like to have a party (complete with booze) in his honour instead of a funeral, so that there will be ‘no tears’ – only celebration. For some alternative and peculiar funeral ideas, click here, here and here.

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The truth – that everyone already knows – is this, no one lives forever. So, do we wish/pray for healing? If by some miracle the loved one is healed but goes into another relapse a few months later, do we wish/pray for another miracle? If so, for how many (more) times?

At the same time, in order to preserve whatever remains of one’s life, we consent to doctors injecting more drugs into the patient’s body, thus subjecting him/her to prolonged suffering. When do we stop? But if we know that all man must die (eventually), then should we continue to offer lip service to ‘get well soon’?

Perhaps we are hoping against hope that we can delay death – to share one last moment, to resolve a past grievance, to ask for forgiveness, or simply to see his or her last smile.

I apologise if you have read so far expecting an answer, or if this post offended you in any way. Heck, maybe this post doesn’t even make any sense. There isn’t any easy way out to deal with death. But life goes on, it has to.

We can’t delay the inevitable, but we can start creating memories and cherishing moments with our loved ones, today. While we mourn their departure, we celebrate their life that’s well lived.

And importantly, in view of our own mortality, we can put aside petty quarrels and live a life of no regrets; one filled with tons of laughter, love and, surrounded by the people that matters. RW

Dear Reuel: What Is This ‘Sell 1 HDB Flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ All About?

Dear Reuel, 

I have been seeing Facebook ads from property agents telling me that I can sell my HDB flat and with the sales proceeds – buy two private properties. A HDB flat for two condominiums? For real? How is that even possible? Is it a scam or some sales talk?

– Skeptical

Dear Skeptical,

You are right to be skeptical (like me). It’s this killer street-smart instinct that stops you from falling prey to ridiculous scams like the DHL episode, Nigerian prince inheritance bullocks and magic stone horsesh*t.

Here’s the true-true. It’s actually possible. But there’s a caveat though and for it to work, there must be some conditions to be met. In order to show you how it works, I am going to create a fictitious (but realistic) Singaporean homeowner profile.


PHOTO: A 4-room Punggol flat sold by Reuelwrites

John and Mary’s Profile:

  • John and Mary are both 35 years old and make $6,000 and $3,500 respectively for the past 10 years.
  • They got married, successfully applied for their high-floor, 4-room, Punggol BTO HDB flat in 2008 and moved in upon its completion in 2011.
  • They took a 90% HDB loan for the $200k flat and have been paying $817 in monthly installments. They do not have any other debts and loans.
  • Because their monthly CPF contribution into their Ordinary Account is $1,840, they have more than enough to pay the monthly installment and put into their CPF OA.
  • John and Mary has accumulated around $220k and $120k in their CPF OA respectively.

Fortune smiles upon them and their flat has appreciated to $450k based on the most recent market transactions.

After staying in their HDB flat for six years;

  • They still have a loan balance of $146,800, with an assumed accrued CPF interest of $2,000.
  • If they sell their flat, they will have an extra $60,000 in combined CPF monies and accured interest credited back into their CPF OA.
  • After taking away all the deductibles, they will get to pocket a cool $232,700 in cash proceeds.
  • John and Mary will have $251k and $151k in CPF monies respectively.

PHOTO: Sims Urban Oasis Showflat


How the ‘Sell 1 HDB flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ Work:


  • As the higher income earner, John buys a 3 bedroom condo in Punggol which costs around $1m, as a sole owner.
  • Based on his salary of $6,000, he can borrow a maximum bank loan of around $800k.
  • His monthly installment amounts to around $2.8k/month, which he can pay using his existing CPF monies for minimum 20 months (if John happens to go on a sabbatical or loses his job due to misfortune).
  • His monthly CPF contribution is $1,380, which means he needs to top up the difference of $1,420 in CPF (or cash).


  • With a salary of $3,500, Mary can borrow a maximum bank loan of around $468k which she loans to purchase a 1 bedroom apartment in Aljunied at $550k, as a sole owner as well.
  • Her monthly installment amounts to around $1.7k/month, which she can pay using her existing CPF monies for minimum 33 months (if Mary happens to go on a sabbatical or loses her job due to misfortune).
  • Mary rents it out for $1.7k, thereafter having the tenant cover her monthly installments.
  • Mary can sell it four years later at $650k (based on an inflation of 4-5%/annum), thereafter pocketing another $120k in cash proceeds and rental income, which she can use to roll on another property.
  • Her monthly CPF contribution is $805, which means she needs to top up the difference of $895 in CPF (or cash).


  • Together, John and Mary are now cool owners of two private properties instead of one.
  • After paying the 5% option fee for both properties, they still have $155,200 from the sale of their HDB flat which they can use to renovate their new home and put into their children’s education fund.
  • They have also saved 7% Additional Buyers’ Stamp Duties since they each bought the properties under individual names.
  • They have upgraded to a private property where their entire family can enjoy a better quality of life while also growing their monies through another property investment at the same time.

Sounds good yea? This is granted homeowners such as yourself share the same or similar profile as the clients above. But alas, the world is not fair ya.


PHOTO: Parc Life Executive Condominium Artist Impression

When Does It Not Work:

I have done plenty of presentations and financial calculations for clients. Here are some common reasons why the above method do not work all the time.

  1. Not all HDB flats can be sold with such high cash proceeds (some might even be a negative sale)
  2. Homeowners make the mistake of fully/partially paying the flat with their CPF monies early, resulting in high CPF accrued interests which diminishes the cash proceeds.
  3. Homeowners have been staying in the HDB flat for decades, resulting in super high CPF accrued interests payable back to their own CPF OA when they sell the flat.
  4. Homeowners’ salaries are insufficient to take loans to buy two separate properties.
  5. Loan is insufficient to finance 80% of the property as home buyers have many loans and debts which include but are not limited to credit card debts, car loans, renovation loans, etc.
  6. Banks are unwilling to loan home buyers as home buyers have a history of bad debts, resulting in a low credit score.
  7. Home buyers are self-employed and declared a low income (dum dum dum).
  8. Home buyers are conservative and fear having too much debts (loans) to pay – even if they have the ability to pay for them.

My Thoughts:

The ‘Sell 1 HDB flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ can work. But for it to work, you will really need to have a sit-down sharing session with a good and capable real estate agent with a conscience (which I highly and shamelessly recommend myself for obvious reasons!) and share all information with him/her, including your debts (if any).

Overall, ‘Sell 1 HDB flat, Buy 2 Private Properties’ is good but it’s not for everyone. There is a Chinese saying that goes这么大的头就别戴这么大的帽子” (If you don’t have a big head, don’t wear a big hat). Don’t be greedy (or carried away to another planet by the property agent’s flowery words) and leverage beyond your means.

Even if you can’t buy two private properties, exchanging a used 99-year leasehold flat for a brand new condo (or even an Executive Condominium) with a fresh lease is pretty sweet too, isn’t it? RW


Editor’s note: Every week, Reuelwrites dishes out uncensored, practical advice to friends, family members or strangers regarding real estate. Got a question for Reuelwrites? Email it to

Consultation: There is no one-advice-fits-all solution. For more in-depth advice, contact Reuelwrites at or call +65 9833-6450.

Disclaimer: While the author Reuelwrites is a certified real estate agent with Huttons Asia, the above thoughts represents his own and is in no way representative to that of Huttons Asia.

Dear Reuel: I Would Like To Fully Pay My Flat With My CPF

Dear Reuel,

“My boyfriend and I are settling down soon and are thinking of applying for a $250k, 3 room BTO flat in Punggol. We are thinking of fully paying the flat with our CPF. What do you think?”

– Girlfriend

Dear Girlfriend,

First of all, congratulations! Oh wait, he hasn’t propose right? Anyways, why are you considering a 3 room flat instead of a 4 room flat? Because it’s cheaper? Please do your family planning before firming up your decision. Unless you are telling me that you heart dogs over babies, then I second your decision!

Next, you will be a fool if you fully pay your flat with your CPF, at your age. Since you are still young and probably won’t stay here forever (you know what I mean), there is a high possibility that you will get promoted and get better salaries, upgrade to a bigger house or better yet – move to a private property.

By dumping all your CPF monies into your flat, you are reducing your opportunity cost to nil. Assuming five years from now, you would like to buy a brand new EC like Rivercove Residences for example but because you are short of the same $250k which you put into your flat, now you are stuck with your 3 room flat. Not very smart, is it?

And worst of all, by the time you want to sell your flat to net a cool $150k cash proceeds, you would realise that your cash proceeds has been reduced by $50k due to the CPF accrued interest which you could have earned have you left them in your CPF account to generate free interest.

Of course there are some exceptions. If you draw a huge salary, and can afford to pay the option and down-payment for a private property regardless of the ABSD, you can keep your fully paid flat and buy a condo on top of your flat. By the way, I would like to be your friend (and maybe entice you with some properties I am promoting).

But if you don’t fall within the above category, do me a favour dear. Take a maximum bank loan (pay 5$ option in cash), and keep your CPF monies in the CPF Ordinary Account. Let them earn the 2.5% accrued interest, or invest them in some unit trust or whatever. Just don’t be silly to put all your CPF monies in your flat immediately. RW

Update: The above scenario is on the assumption that the buyer has the ability to fully pay the flat with their CPF monies or has accumulated more CPF monies through years of work while already owning a HDB flat. For buyers buying with HDB loan, they will have to use all their monies in their CPA OA to offset the purchase price before taking a HDB loan.


Editor’s note: Every week, Reuelwrites dishes out uncensored, practical advice to friends, family members or strangers regarding real estate. Got a question for Reuelwrites? Email it to

Consultation: There is no one-advice-fits-all solution. For more in-depth advice, contact Reuelwrites at or call +65 9833-6450.

Disclaimer: While the author Reuelwrites is a certified real estate agent with Huttons Asia, the above thoughts represents his own and is in no way representative to that of Huttons Asia.

10 Things To Consider Before Buying Your First HDB Flat

Ready to make the first biggest purchase of your life? Consider the following points before buying your first home.

You just got married or achieved the 35-year-old milestone and it’s finally time to get your own abode, Yay! There’s this unspeakable sense of joy mixed in with apprehension venturing into this domain which was previously off-limits. Being a realtor myself, I have seen home buyers come and go, some having done ample research while others.. well clearly taking a leap into the unknown.

Here are some things to consider before paying that $1,000 option fee to buy your first home. Warning, long post ahead but hey, it’s your first home we are talking about here, so better to be more detailed yea?

1. Consider Your Financing

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Before you go searching for your dream home, take stock of your current finances and how you intend to fund your property.

Top things to consider:

  • What is the maximum amount I can loan from HDB / Banks?
  • How much monies I have in my CPF Ordinary Account?
  • How much upfront cash do I have / want to put into my first property [excluding renovation fees]?
  • How much do I have to top up in cash every month if my monthly CPF contribution cannot cover the monthly installments?

Essentially, all you need in cash to buy a resale flat is $5,000 (or less) – provided you [are eligible to] take a 90% HDB loan and there is enough money in your CPF OA to pay the 10% downpayment as well as the 3% Buyer’s Stamp Duty (BSD) Government tax.

The amount of cash you need for purchasing a Build-To-Order (BTO) flat is slightly different and the option fee can be reimbursed from your CPF OA if there is enough monies in your CPF OA to pay the downpayment and BSD inclusive of the option money. For more info, click here.

And it is best that you actually get your HDB Loan Eligibility (HLE) or your bank loan approved before you start your house hunt to avoid wasting time.

Image result for hdb loan


“If I don’t need so much upfront cash when taking a HDB loan, why should I consider a bank loan to begin with?” 

The #1 reason for taking a bank loan is simply because of their favourable interest rates. HDB loan while consistent, goes at a hefty 2.6% interest per annum whereas bank interest rates are significantly lower. As at 3 September 2017, floating interest rates can go as low as 1.28% (1st year) while fixed interest rates can go as low as 1.5% (1st year).

If you are someone who can manage your finances well, bank loan is up your alley. But do take note that you will have to engage a private lawyer instead of a HDB lawyer to do the conveyancing for you.

In spite of this, HDB loans are still popular because they allow for lesser upfront cash/CPF payments and they do not have any repayment penalties. If a homeowner has the financial ability to partially or fully pay their flat in cash/CPF, they can do so without any penalties. This may not be so for banks.

Another reason would also be that HDB – as a Statutory Board – won’t be so inhumane to kick the homeowner out of the house should they have any difficulty in future when paying the monthly installments. The bankers won’t be so kind!

Do also bear in mind that if you have a low credit score due to repayment issues in the past, it will affect your bank and HDB loan. 

There is no such thing as “HDB loan is better” or vice versa. It all depends on your needs really. Speak to your realtor should you have any questions.

2. Check Your Eligibility

Before taking the next step, be sure to check your eligibility. To buy a BTO or resale flat, you have to fall within any of HDB’s eligibility scheme.

Singapore Permanent Residents (SPRs) with a proper family nucleus who have obtained their SPR status for at least 3 years at the time of submitting the application can also buy HDB resale flats. However, they are not allowed to buy BTO flats.

3. BTO Or Resale Flat?

Image result for bto flat


Much like buying a new launch condo unit, buying a BTO flat ensures that buyers (must form a family nucleus) buy their flat at the best price possibly. But let’s not forget that BTOs are getting expensive as well. Besides, [only] in Singapore, couples have to make a [difficult] decision of applying for their BTO flat – which takes 3 years to build – way before filing for a notice of marriage so that they can get their house on time just before or after the wedding. But ya’ know, life happens and breakups may occur as well.

The cancellation of a BTO flat application – depending on what stage of the buying you are at – can have dire consequences such as the forfeiture of the paid up money on the property as well as balloting chances for another BTO flat in the future. For more details, visit this detailed article by BTO flat buyers may also be eligible for housing grants of up to $80,000.

Image result for housing grant


If you believe your relationship is fireproof, then go ahead and make the application. But lady luck may not smile on you since there can be as many as 8-10 applicant balloting for the same BTO and even Sale-of-Balance (SOB) flat.

Resale flats on other hand provide the opportunity for couples to upon marriage; choose their desired location without the hassle of balloting, move in immediately upon completion of transaction, and also enjoy up to $110,000 in grants (subject to eligibility).

For couples who don’t mind waiting for their home and enjoy a higher monthly combined income not exceeding $14,000, Executive Condominiums and maybe even private condominiums may be a better buy. More details in my next article.

4. Consider The Lease of Your Flat 

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One of the most important point to remember about HDB flats is that they have a running lease term – which at the end of the 99 years lease will be returned to the State. While location is important, buyers should also keep in mind that they don’t overpay for an ageing property as reminded by Minister Lawrence Wong.

Buying a flat with lesser years left on its lease can affect;

  • Your financing of the flat with HDB or Bank loan,
  • How much CPF you can use for your flat purchase and,
  • Your selling price when you want to sell your flat to upgrade.

For more information on how much CPF you can use for flats with less than 60 years lease, click here. For more information on how much HDB loan can be offered for flats with less than 60 years lease, click here.

As a rule of thumb for my clients below the age of 35, I would advise that they buy a newer flat completed not more than 10 years ago if possible. This is due to the fact that HDB flats depreciate when nearing 60 years in leftover lease and this can result in negative sale. More details in the next point.

5. Consider If You Intend To Stay Here Forever

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“Woah, forever? Need to think so far meh?”

Forever seems too far-fetched but it will be something that you wish you considered when you realised the flat you bought ten years ago will be a negative sale (which requires you to pay the shortfall to HDB or the bank whom you loaned from). You need to plan for your tomorrow today, and I can’t emphasize that enough.

If you are in your 20s or 30s, there is a high chance that this flat won’t be your last home and you could possibly look to upgrade to a bigger house or a private property when you get promoted to a better job and earn better salaries later on in life. Hence, it is important to consider your exit plan (think of the future resale price) and come out with a 10-year game plan. Speak to your realtor to find out more.

This will be a non-issue for buyers buying BTO flats although they will have to sacrifice on the space and location since resale flats are usually in better locations closer to town, have many amenities and transportation routes, as well as bigger layouts.

6. Renovated Or Original Condition Flat?

Image result for interior design hdb


Okay, now that we are done with the financial stuff, let’s talk about something less boring! One of the most interesting part of house hunting is peering into someone else’s home. And that begs the question; To buy a renovated flat or not, that is the question.

For buyers looking to save a few bucks, a renovated unit would be ideal since renovation cost will be kept to a minimum. However, owners who put good money into the renovation of their homes may most likely expect to sell their flat at a price that is higher than the recent market transactions and valuation. That would also mean that there might be Cash Over Valuation (COV).

For example, an owner who spent $60,000 on renovations ten years ago may expect to pass the cost over to you by selling his property $60,000 above COV! While some may rationalise that it is essentially the same as buying an original condition flat and pumping $60k in renovations, but it’s not. Here’s why;

  • Even if the valuers were to take into account the exact renovation cost, all renovation has straight-line depreciation,
    • Many people including agents don’t know this, but there is actually a formula to calculate valuation of renovation after depreciation
    • A flat renovated 10 years ago or longer adds $0 into the valuation
  • Buyers can buy an original condition flat and take up a renovation loan, thus do not have to cough up so much upfront cash.
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After transacting so many houses, one thing I observed was this, buyers who bought renovated flats still have to spend a small sum of money on minor renovations, toilet overhaul, carpentry works, or even hacking away passé/unwanted decor.

For buyers who choose an original condition flat over a renovated flat, you can save cost from hacking away unwanted decor while getting your interior designers to renovate the house based on the latest trends and all.

Hence, while viewing a beautiful renovated home may give you the good vibes, it might at times make more sense to buy an original condition flat and renovate it into the house of your dreams. With that said, you still got to do your budgeting for the renovations!

But again, different buyers have different needs. If the renovated flat with its gorgeous decor fits the home of your dreams, why not? Talk to your realtor about this.

7. Mature Or Non-Mature Estate?

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PHOTO: Iconic Dragon Playground in Toa Payoh |

Many of u like the idea of living in an exciting estate that has everything from supermarkets, to proximity to town, to movie theatres, to megamalls, and the list can go on and on. But what if staying in a happening location may set you back by more than double the price?

Last year, The Straits Times reported that a 5-room flat in Clementi was sold at a record-breaking $1.005m. That record has since been broken by another Clementi flat which was sold at $1.04m earlier in April this year. Since last year, many Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) flats in Bishan, Toa Payoh and Boon Keng have crossed the $1 million threshold.

While not all HDB flats in a mature estate will come with such an exorbitant (DBSS) price tag, expect to pay a premium for the location nevertheless. Here’s an example.

  • A high floor (above #12) 1,087 sqft 4-room flat in Block 155 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh (TOP 1999) was sold at $690,000 in August 2017.
  • Comparatively, a high floor (above #13) 980 sqft 4-room flat in Block 293 Punggol Central (TOP 2005) was sold at $408,000.
  • Both are within similar walking distance to the nearest MRT. One costs almost $300,000 more.
  • Based on the same perimeters of 80% HDB loan on a 25-year tenure, the Toa Payoh flat buyer have to pay around $2,505 in monthly installment while the Punggol flat buyer have to pay around $1,666.
  • The difference is almost $1,000, enough to pay the installment for a low maintenance vehicle.
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PHOTO: Punggol Waterway |

To add on, properties in a non-mature estate also has the potential to appreciate in value as more developments and amenities are built over time. Some non-mature estates which will see lots of development in the future include the Northeast regionJurong district, Woodlands district. One way to find out the future developments in the area is to look it up on the URA Master Plan.

Past non-mature estates which are highly sought after today include Marine Parade and even super-popular towns like Tiong Bahru, Toa Payoh, Bishan and Bukit Timah which used to be the cemeteries.

Of course living in a non-mature estate does have its drawbacks such as limited convenience shops and coffee-shops for example. If that is something you can overlook, why not consider a flat in non-mature estates?

For buyers who have a higher combined monthly income, they can also consider Executive Condominiums instead of buying a HDB flat which will be addressed in my next article.

8. Check The Property Value

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Back to the point 5, some sellers are [just a little too] optimistic, hoping to sell their flats at a price that is a tad higher than recent transactions in the same block or area. Be sure to check the recent transactions in the block prior to making an offer. Also, a competent real estate agent would be able to help you negotiate down the price to avoid or minimise any COV.

If you are not in the property trade, you wouldn’t know that sometimes, there is a peculiar phenomenon where two flats in the same location with a road separating the two can have a different property value. One could just be a few metres closer to the MRT or have a better facing. If price is more important to you, choosing the cheaper alternative is a natural selection.

9. Ask The Right Questions

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One common mistake that most home hunters make is they do not ask the right questions. Questions such as “How high is the ceiling height?” are redundant when compared to other questions like “How many minutes’ bus ride to the nearest MRT?” Asking the right questions ensures you know exactly what you are signing up for and allows you to prepare in the event that something goes wrong in the deal. This becomes absolutely important if you see potential red flags such as freshly painted walls outside the flat, or a brownish ceiling in the toilet.

Some important questions include the following;

  • How long does it take to get to the nearest MRT via public transport?
  • Where is the nearest supermarket and coffee shops?
  • Where is the nearest childcare centre?
  • Who are the neighbours?
  • How long ago was the renovation?
  • Are there any leaking issues in the house?
  • Does the owner have any past history of moneylending?
  • Is the owner going through financial hardship? To name a few.

But if you have a responsible and competent realtor, just leave the asking to him/her.

10. Finding The Perfect House

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Have you ever tried looking for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and found it? It’s essentially the same as looking for the perfect house. The thing is, you will probably not be able to find a house with the best facing, ideal floor level, bright and breezy, good condition, desired amenities, angelic neighbours, and finally fall within your acceptable pricing.

If you are, unfortunately I have to inform you as a realtor that you are setting yourself for disappointment. There is bound to be something in the house which may be a [minor] issue to you. Instead of telling yourself that this house has to meet your every criteria, look instead to identify your wants vs your needs, and the dealbreakers ie. things that you confirm plus chop cannot accept.

For example, high floor is a need, while high floor and can see fireworks is a want. Another example, you cannot accept that your house is facing the main road but if the unit faces a small road is something you can consider, then strike the main road facing units out of your selection but allow yourself to consider units facing the small road.

With that, I hope that the above article has equipped you with the knowledge on searching for your first home! RW

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Share this article with your friends! The above article represents the writer’s honest opinion and does not reflect the sentiments of any company and Government organisation. Need advice on finding your home or are looking to engage the author? You can reach the author at 9833-6450 or The author is an experienced, licensed real estate salesperson with Huttons Asia.

While efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information and data stated above, any use of the above information and data should be used at viewers’ discretion.